One of the most popular themes in movies and books about dogs are stories of dogs that somehow, against all odds and probability, manage to find their owners after becoming separated. This can occur after becoming lost, having their owner move and not taking the dog, or after the dog gets taken or stolen and moved across the county, state or country but still managing to get back home. While a great number of the stories are fiction, many are also based on fact. There are a huge number of dogs that have been reunited with owners after traveling hundreds of miles to get home again. What is truly remarkable about these feats is that the dogs are not tracking or traveling over country they have ever even been, they are following their instincts and natural intelligence to somehow find their masters again.
It doesn't seem to matter what breed of dog is likely to be a hero and find his or her way home. There are accounts of Huskies, Labradors, Setters, Terriers, Poodles and Collies managing to travel these huge distances, often arriving in near starved conditions. It seems that it is truly love and devotion that motivates these dogs to keep searching and somehow find their way back to familiar areas.
Below are a few actual reported stories of dogs that have journeyed long distances to get back to the people they love.
Many people don't realize that the movie "Eight Below" is actually based on a true story. In 1958 a Japanese expedition was sent to the Antarctic for exploration and research purposes. Due to horrific weather conditions the research team left, leaving behind a total of 15 sled dogs of the Japanese breed of Sakhalin Huskies. These dogs were tied to an outpost and left with just a few days worth of food, as there was a supposed to be a secondary team on the way to rescue the dogs. The increasingly bad weather made it impossible for the second team to arrive, so the dogs were literally left and assumed dead.
The next year when the research team arrived back at the research outpost, two of the dogs were still alive and generally in good health. These two dogs, Jiro and Taro, became instant heroes overnight for their bravery and endurance in waiting for their handlers to return.
In the movie "Eight Below" the dogs are not Sakhalin Huskies, which look similar to the Akita Inu and Japanese Spitz breed. In the movie the dogs are Siberian Huskies.
Bobbie, sometimes referred to as Bobbie the Wonder Dog is one of the few dogs that has literally traveled across the United States on his own, by foot. In 1923 Bobbie and his family were on vacation in Indiana and Bobbie became separated from his people at a stop. Although the family stayed in the area as long as they could looking for Bobbie, they finally had to give up and return to their home in Silverton, Oregon. Flyers and advertisements were left in the local papers, but no one ever called or contacted them and they assumed the dog had either perished or had been taken in by someone in Indiana as a stray.
Approximately six months later they opened their dog to find their beloved Bobbie sitting on their front step. He was severely malnourished and had injuries to his paws and legs from all the walking he had done. It is believed that Bobbie somehow walked, jogged or ran the entire distance, totaling over 2800 miles across country. Strangely there were no reported sightings of Bobbie along the way and obviously he was never captured as a stray dog. No one knows the route he took and if he somehow understood to avoid populated places or if his luck was just holding for the whole trip. Regardless of how he accomplished this feat it is a record that is impressive and one that many humans couldn't duplicate even with modern technology.
Bobbie became famous for his loyalty and become a star of books, short stories and newspaper articles. A large Collie/German Shepherd cross, Bobbie as also featured in parades in Silverton and even was given the Keys to the City for his heroism and devotion to his family. Bobbie died in 1927 and is buried outside of the Oregon Humane Society. His legend continues on in the Silverton annual child pet parade named in his honor.
It seems that war and the stress of war brings out the very best in both man and dogs. Troubles was a scout dog assigned with handler William Richardson to the war zone in South Vietnam. In the late 1960s Richardson and Troubles were taken by helicopter to an area about 10 miles from their base to scout out the terrain prior to the rest of the unit arriving. During the mission Richardson was shot and wounded and when the medics arrived to find him Troubles was not around or would not come to their calls. The medic unit had to leave due to enemy fire and they assumed that the dog had been injured or killed at the same time as the handler was shot.
To the soldier's amazement about three weeks after Richardson had been airlifted to a hospital and was recovering, Troubles showed back up at the base. He had somehow navigated through jungles, across rivers and through enemy territory and war zones to get back to his handler. Although Richardson was not present at the base, Troubles sniffed his way through every barrack until he found his handlers bed, where he curled up and when to sleep. The two were reunited after Richardson's recovery.
Dog owners hope to never have to deal with these issues of testing their dog's ability to find its way home over long distances. Thanks to modern technology such as microchipping it is now less likely that a dog that gets lost can't get some human assistance to find his or her way back home safely.